This in a way is the most difficult but at the same time the most complete path to reach a permanent state of happiness. Sri Aurobindo uses the term ‘The Divine Worker’ in the context of how work can become a path to realization. In our normal conversation we say ‘work is worship’ but most of us don’t live that way. Work normally becomes a means to an end say earning money, comfort, possessions etc.
But why is it the most difficult path? There are two ways to approach Work. The first is followed by what I would call the lucky ones. These persons will enjoy their work and not be troubled by too many thoughts. They will remain absorbed in their work genuinely. However, the problem with this is that it may not lead to an Inner Awareness i.e. a greater and Larger Happiness. It may stop at the stage of a contented work life.
The second way is when both Devotion and Knowledge lead one to Work. In order to understand this, we need to first understand that one cannot escape activity of some kind. As Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, effort is made by all and one cannot renounce action of all kinds permanently. Till one attains complete union or identification with the Infinite, work or activity becomes essential for everyone to be involved in. Therefore, even one who tries to renounce the worldly activities still has to control his Mind and surpass that before he can renounce work or effort.
Then what does the path of work entail? Also what is work? The second question actually brings into play the concept of Swabhava and Swadharma. Work is what one gets engaged in, due to one’s tendencies. Typically it has been assumed in the past that it is one’s traditional activity by birth etc., which is one’s work, but in the normal and modern context one can say it is the activity that one engages in, not just for earning one’s living but also for doing well in and enjoying whatever one engages in. The question then arises how does one convert this work into worship?
This is where Knowledge can help. When one knows that the work we do is our sacrifice to Him then we want to give our best to Him. Thus irrespective of one’s work one will want to do it well. Doing well can and is normally seen by the outcome or the result. But what is important is the intention and expectation. Once the work is seen as worship, the Intent is to ensure His bidding or Wish is fulfilled and not ours. The Expectation is that one becomes a perfect instrument for Him to execute His Will. This path will then start with the prayer that whatever effort one puts in is to fulfil His Will and that is one’s sacrifice to Him. In return what does one get? More progress on the path to enable one savour True Happiness always.
In this case our Devotion to Him is total. Every result whether termed by our Mind as bad or good will be accepted as His. It will not be what is good is His blessings and what is bad is due to our lack of effort alone or vice versa. The more intense our Devotion becomes the more non-identified will one become with the result or the labels. However, one outcome of this kind of work would be that one’s efforts would become more and more perfect, i.e. there would not be gaps in the input. This would be the height of our Swadharma.
The second outcome of this type of work would be that the positive energy that arises out of this, leads one to know more of Him i.e. one starts experiencing His presence more deeply through one’s work, more absorbed and concentrated effort and most importantly a deep sense of happiness in the effort.
What started as a prayer would become an experience, i.e. one would realize that all happens due to Him or His Gunas or Will and one should love Him more and go deeper within to experience Him in all aspects of our work experience. This becomes a complete cycle i.e. the more we experience a non-work thought free state the more output we get from our effort. Also one identifies with and loves Him all the more. Thus this allows one to experience Him in all the three ways i.e. the mental, feelings and the work experience.
Why is this path better but at the same time more difficult? It is better because every few minutes the turbulence of one’s work pushes one inward. It seems difficult to bear with the consequences of one’s efforts as otherwise the outcomes are very difficult for us to take ownership of, especially when one is confronted with what is deemed as failure. Therefore there seems no option but to become more inward and more devoted to Him. Similarly, since one cannot understand the cause and effect of the outcomes one seeks True Knowledge. This leads one again more inward to seek the Truth experientially. The last point is that it helps in the evolution of our surface tendencies i.e. to take possession of what we can, our wrong identification with the surface etc., all get exposed quickly.
Why is it difficult? It is difficult because until one gets more evolved one has to undergo all the sufferings and ups and downs of Life. However, even when one follows the other paths this will not change but the path itself provides one a crutch to hold on to. In this path one has to be fully immersed in one’s work to avoid the Mind from wavering.
(To be continued)
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(The writer is the Joint Managing Director of TVS & Sons Ltd., and MD, TVS Logistics)